The Mule - TGB

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Carolino/Delgado/Frazao (2004)

By Derek Taylor

Western improvised music has long prized the possibilities that arise out of conjoining potentially dissimilar elements. Strange-seeming instrumental unions have now almost become the norm. Oboe, harp and drums. Sopranino, mandolin and contrabass. Odds are if you can conjure up a particular assemblage of instruments in your mind's eye, precedence exists for improvisors putting it into practice. TGB is a felicitous case in point, the acronym representing the three principle constituents of their sound eponymous to the disc (guitarist Mário Delgado doubles on dobro and drummer Alexandre Frazāo also plays melodica). Their fleet style of interplay subverts the potentially cumbersome nature of their instrumentation. In both form and content it brings the spirit of Muhammad Ali's most famous mantra to mind.
Ten cuts make for an expeditious program of music, lean and relatively free of congestion. Most of the tracks rely on infectious melodic hooks, bouncy syncopated grooves and rapid switchbacks in tempo as springboards for spontaneity. Quixotic solos are a common part of the recipe too, starting as each man sounds off on the opening Frazāo number “Pipa Baquígrafo,” a piece that interpolates thematic kernels of Ellington's “Take the Coltrane” into its structure. Carolino negotiates his weighty brass beast with agility more customary to euphonium or slide trombone, and there are points when the speed of his phrasing rivals that of a far less bulky horn. It's a facility that yields impressive if loquacious results on “Lilli's Funk Intro.”
Delgado regularly coats his riffing with craggy rock-style distortion. Bent single notes carry equal clout in his vernacular. The three also enjoy playful games of call and response and melodic relay, with one advancing a line, only to hand it off like a hot potato for further elaboration from one or both of his partners. The swift conversion of ideas into practice is most prominent on episodic fare like the ominously titled “Pascoal Joins the Dark Force.”
Points do arise where the intrepid three skirt dangerously close to self-parody. The sudden shift into high gear near-wankery during Delgado's solo on the chameleonic “2.4.7” is one such case, but the guitarist manages to rein in arena rock impulses and largely saves the piece from excessive histrionics. Frazāo's haunting melodica mimics the back alley drones of bandoneon on “Inércia,” threading with melancholy counterpoint from Carolino, who putters out a snaking bass line peppered by Delgado's shimmering string oscillations.
The trio also tackles three covers, starting with a schizophrenic reading of Monk's “Brilliant Corners” and leading to a virtually unreconizable version of Bud Powell's “Un Poco Loco,” ripe with wacky guitar effects and hairpin twists. Finally, they try their hand at the Led Zeppelin anthem “Black Dog.” Here Carolino apes the Robert Plant vocal line with a tuba falsetto and it ends up a hard rocking tour de force. There are points where the trio's collective cleverness gets the better of it, but in sum this is an enjoyable and well thought out outing.

Track listing: Pipa Baquigrafo/ 3.4.7/ Inercia/ Pascoal Joins the Dark Force/ Lilli's Funk- Intro/ Lilli's Funk- Theme/ Brilliant Corners/ So/ Un Poco Loco/ Black Dog.
Personnel: Sergio Carolino- tuba; Mario Delgado- guitar, dobro; Alexandre Frazao- drums, melodica. Recorded: August 2003, Lisbon.
Style: Modern Jazz | Published: August 07, 2004

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